finding your place
Chipps is away. He’s off on sabbatical to what he calls ‘his favourite place in the world’: Moab, Utah. Now, I’m not going to argue with him – Moab is probably wonderful, and there are some ancient petroglyphs there that I’d really like to see, and I definitely want to feel the texture of slickrock under my fingers and tyres before I die.
But for all that I’m sure Moab is lovely, I’m not sure it’s wise to call anywhere your favourite place in the world. Move to Moab and perhaps the more moist offerings of Todmorden might start to have their attractions. Well, maybe not Todmorden… the Pacific North West, perhaps.
The point is, the grass is always greener, the trails always drier, loamier, rockier, rootier, dustier, tackier. Wherever you are, there will be somewhere that has something you do not. If you’re sitting huddled by a fire with your radiators sporting an array of steaming, drying, mid-winter UK riding kit, you might struggle to be persuaded that the dry climes of Moab would ever get boring. But I think it would.
Instead of a favourite place, I think we should seek to find a perfect space. I don’t want to sound too Gwyneth Paltrow and New Age about it (though, hey, it’d probably fit in nicely in Moab), but I’m talking about a state of being – a place in your head. A space that isn’t bound to any geographical location, or even any specific bike. Since this space is in your head, there’s no need to pick a favourite. Just go out and experience as many of them as you can.
That moment when fear turns to joy, and you nail the trail feature that nearly had you hauling on the brakes. That cool, empty calm that comes with smooth pedalling, stroke after stroke, and the world melts away. That focused buzz of adrenaline as you fly on the edge of ability and control. The tired relief and satisfaction of making it to the end of a long, tough day on the bike.
Perhaps some of these perfect spaces are shared. The collective laughter that comes with the horror of winter sleet in your face as you battle to get to shelter as fast as possible. The companionable warm glow of walking through the pub door and out of that sleet. The camaraderie of working together to fix a mechanical, or get a broken rider home.
Some of these perfect moments might be tied to being in the right place at the right time. Gleeful crisp crunching over frozen bog crust, that moment when you catch the sun rise over a frosty hillside and you’re the only one there to see it. Stopping for sandwiches on the first warm day of the year and listening to the skylarks. Catching the last warm day of the year and having the time to ride through all of it.
There are many perfect places to be found on a bike, and if you see them as a state of mind, you can have them without venturing too far from your home or spending lots of money. Of course, it might be just a little easier to get into that perfect space if you’re not slightly preoccupied with getting back in time to get the kids from school, or preparing a presentation, or meeting a deadline. So perhaps a little holiday might be in order. Moab, anyone?